How, in today’s pluralistic world, are we called to love our neighbour? The United Church, believing that God is creatively and redemptively at work in the religious life of all humanity, has long been involved in interfaith dialogue and action to build respectful mutual relationships. Several landmark resources trace a record of this ongoing journey.
Mending the World (1997) articulated the broad principles of “whole world ecumenism.” Seeking “justice for God's creatures and healing for God's creation,” the church joins “with other persons of good will in the search for justice, wholeness and love.” These principles continue to inform our interfaith work. We set out to build relationships with different faiths, listen deeply to each other, work through issues and learn from our differences, and open up to new possibilities for working together.
Bearing Faithful Witness, which looks at United Church of Canada relations to the Jewish faith, was the first in a series of church-wide interfaith studies. Engagement and study by people of the United Church was encouraged, and the statement was approved at General Council in 2003. In it, we acknowledge a history of anti-Judaism in Christian biblical interpretation, theology, and action. We affirm the significance of Judaism as at once a religion, a people, and a covenant community. Rooted in our common calling to God’s world-mending work, the statement encourages all in the church to seek opportunities to meet with Jews and to learn about modern Judaism, to continue to study significant issues, to resist antisemitism and anti-Judaism in church and society, and to create worship opportunities to highlight the Jewish–Christian relationship.
That We May Know Each Other: United Church-Muslim Relations Today was approved in 2006. This study started from the assumption that our “journey of understanding … must ultimately come from face-to-face contact, from conversation, from hospitality, and from friendship.” It encouraged “seeing Muslims as neighbours, as friends, and most of all as people whom God has called to faithfulness.” The church’s final statement acknowledges a history of hostility and misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims, and recognizes Islam as a religion of peace, mercy, justice, and compassion. It names a shared theological heritage as Abrahamic religions, but also acknowledges the particular gifts of Islam to a global tapestry of insight into God’s work in the world: the prophetic witness of Muhammad and the expression of God’s mercy, compassion, and justice in the Qur’an. We are encouraged to work with Muslims and others for peace and justice for all humanity.
Currently underway is a study on a proposed interfaith statement on the relationship between the United Church and members of the Hindu religion. Honouring the Divine in Each Other: United Church-Hindu Relations Today, available under Downloads, below, will be the basis of a statement brought to General Council for approval in July 2018. The statement expresses regret for the church’s condemnation of Hindu worship practices in our missionary history, the language of idolatry, and the church’s complicity in colonialism. It expresses respect for the richness of Hindu philosophical traditions and their variety of expressions of divinity. And it recognizes “God’s saving and liberating grace…at work in the religious life of Hinduism” and encourages opportunities for learning from each other and for “mutual transformation in faith and action.”
Interfaith Dialogue Organizations
The United Church participates in interfaith dialogue and action through local, national, and global organizations.